Expand AU Menu

School of International Service

  • RSS
  • Print

BA in International Studies

Drawing students from all over the world, AU's top-ranked SIS has the largest faculty and most comprehensive curriculum of any school of international affairs in the United States. With our D.C. location and a multidisciplinary approach that marries theory and practice, you won't find a better place to build your global practice of service.

Offered by the School of International Service, the BA in International Studies prepares students for internationally-focused careers in government, non-profits, and the private sectors. The curriculum is firmly rooted in the liberal arts and sciences, inherently interdisciplinary, and aimed at helping students to think critically and clearly about the most pressing global challenges. It also affords an opportunity for students to find their truest vocations, to discover their passions, and to become active and engaged citizens in a complex global world that defies simple explanations or solutions. SIS faculty and courses help students acquire critical intellectual dispositions and expanded moral imaginations-enabling them to think critically, creatively, and independently about important international issues-that will help them shape the global future.

The seven learning outcomes for the BA in International Studies are:

  1. Demonstrate critical thinking as evidenced through both written work and oral presentation.
  2. Interpret issues from multiple cultural and philosophical perspectives.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of values, ethics, and justice in international affairs.
  4. Understand and apply theories and models drawn from appropriate disciplines such as political science, history, and economics to international affairs.
  5. Display in-depth knowledge of one or more global or regional challenges.
  6. Demonstrate competency in articulating a research question and designing and executing a research project.
  7. Demonstrate at least four-semester proficiency in a foreign language.

SIS believes that the best way to prepare students for global citizenship is to give them opportunities to encounter both the breadth and the depth of international studies. The curriculum stretches students' horizons even as it allows individual students to customize their path through SIS so as to focus on the issues and topics that most attract their attention. A central feature of students' intellectual development in SIS involves original student research, which is thoroughly integrated into the entire academic program of study, including two specifically designated research methodology courses. The SIS commitment to undergraduate research helps students develop the critical capacity to question partisan sound bites and to maintain a healthy skepticism about simplistic knowledge claims. The entire curriculum reflects a concerted effort to help students learn to read closely, write cogently, and think critically, thus equipping them with the concepts, skills, and experiences appropriate for internationally-focused careers and vocations.

The sequencing of the BA in International Studies is designed to give students a firm grounding in the breadth of the international studies field as well as solid research skills before they further develop their own research and substantive interests. The first year experience includes foundational SIS courses such as World Politics, Cross-Cultural Communication, and a First Year Seminar, together with SIS Mentorship, as a way of making sure that students are well-prepared to take advantage of all of the opportunities afforded them by SIS, American University, and the city of Washington, DC. The second year experience features the core research design and methodology sequence, together with gateway courses in the key thematic areas in which students choose to concentrate their coursework during their third year. Students at SIS also focus in depth on a particular region of the world. Lastly, a Senior Capstone class in the final year of a student's course of study allows for the integration of various aspects of the undergraduate educational experience, and enables the creation of a summative project.

Admission to the Program

Candidates for admission to the school must present evidence of excellent personal and academic qualifications. To be considered for freshman admission, an applicant should have earned at least a B average in secondary school. Cultural factors are considered in evaluating transcript and examination results. Other factors taken into account are leadership qualities, character, and personal interest. Students from other regionally-accredited collegiate institutions, and students in other programs at American University who have completed the freshman year, should maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) to be considered for transfer to the school.

University Requirements

  • 120 credit hours with a cumulative GPA of 2.00 or better
  • Completion of college writing requirement
  • Completion of university mathematics requirement

General Education Requirements

  • A total of ten courses, consisting of two courses from each of the five foundational areas
  • At least one course from Area Five: The Natural and Mathematical Sciences must include a laboratory science component
  • No more than two courses may be taken in the same discipline

Major Requirements

  • 57 credit hours plus 3-20 credit hours in foreign language coursework (depending on language placement exam), with grades of C or better.
    • Students may apply up to 3 credit hours toward the major from an approved internship.
    • Study abroad courses may be used toward the major with the approval of the SIS undergraduate program director in consultation with the SIS undergraduate studies committee.

Course Requirements

Foundation Courses (21 credit hours)

Foreign Language (3-20 credit hours)

  • 3-20 credit hours in one modern foreign language, depending on language placement exam. To demonstrate competency, at least one course must be completed at the fourth-semester level or above.

Research Methodology (6 credit hours)

Thematic Areas (18 credit hours)

Students must take one gateway course in each of three different thematic areas for a total of 9 credit hours, and then take two additional courses in a primary thematic area and one additional course in a secondary thematic area for another 9 credit hours.

  • 9 credit hours of gateway courses from three different thematic areas
  • 6 additional credit hours from a primary thematic area
  • 3 additional credit hours from a secondary thematic area In addition to the courses listed below, courses taken abroad may count toward the thematic area. Students should consult their academic advisor for details.

Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution

Gateway Course
Thematic Area Courses

The Global Economy

Foreign Policy and National Security

Gateway Course
Thematic Area Courses

Global Inequality and Development

Environmental Sustainability and Global Health

Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture

Gateway Course
Thematic Area Courses

Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights

Global and Comparative Governance

Regional Focus (9 credit hours)

  • Three courses in one of the following regional areas: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Russia and Central Eurasia. At least one course must be taken at the 300 level or above.
    • In addition to the courses listed below, courses taken abroad may count toward the regional focus. Students should consult their academic advisor for details.


The Americas



Middle East

Russia and Central Eurasia

Senior Capstone (3 credit hours)

Complete one 3-credit course from the following:

Concurrent Certificate

Students in the BA in International Studies program have the opportunity to coordinate their coursework on a particular topic or area of the world, linking coursework in Thematic Areas (and in some cases, Regional Focus courses) with the Senior Capstone, to complete a concurrent certificate program. Students must be officially enrolled to earn a certificate, and completed certificates are noted on the student transcript. For more information, consult an academic advisor and the SIS Undergraduate Program Director.

University Honors Program

To graduate with University Honors in the major through the University Honors Program, students must meet the requirements detailed on the Honors website and have been enrolled as either a first-year student between Fall 1989 and Spring 2014, or as a transfer or self-nominated student through Spring 2015. The University Honors Program should not be confused with the AU Honors Program, which begins in Fall 2014 and has separate requirements, also detailed on the Honors website.

Combined BA in International Studies and Master's Degree

American University offers students the opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees through its combined bachelor's/master's programs. See Combined Bachelor's and Master's Degree for more information.

This program enables highly qualified students to earn both a BA in International Studies and an MA in International Affairs, International Communication, International Development, or International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Course Requirements

  • Admission to the combined BA/MA program requires completion of 75 credit hours, a cumulative grade point average of 3.50, a minimum 3.50 grade point average in SIS courses, a formal application, a written faculty recommendation, and an essay on the student's academic interests and abilities in international affairs. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required. Interested students should contact the SIS Graduate Admissions Office.
  • All requirements for the BA in International Studies.
    • Undergraduate students may apply up to 15 credit hours of approved graduate-level coursework to satisfy the requirements for both degrees.
  • All requirements for the MA in International Affairs, MA in International Communication, MA in International Development, or MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, including a minimum of 18 credit hours completed in residence in graduate status after the undergraduate degree has been awarded.